But a surprising thing happens when you carve out some time in your schedule to travel by bike, even if you’re not an expert — it’s a lot less complicated than it seems, and it’s likely to be a lot more fun than you expect. At least that’s what we — Danny Cross, Hannah McCartney and German Lopez — found after setting forth on three separate rides to do things over the weekend that we were otherwise going to do in a car.
It was a fairly informal exercise and some of us went the extra mile (about 10 miles in one case) to see what a half-day without a car is like. The consensus is that riding bikes is way more fun than driving places.
The Epic Tale of the Zip’s Bacon Burger
ROUTE: Downtown to Mount Lookout via Riverside Drive
LENGTH OF RIDE: 16 miles
GOAL: Zip’s burger with bacon; several beers
CYCLIST: Danny Cross
The best thing about riding a bike is having nowhere you need to be. At least that’s how I feel when traversing this city’s urban neighborhoods on a bike — typically on the weekend and almost certainly with regular stops to consume adult beverages (probably outside).
Last week’s trip to Mount Lookout began with a similar premise: Ride to Zip’s for a bacon cheeseburger, drink a beer or two, see what happens. My friend Jeff and I left the downtown area a little before 4 p.m. to try to beat the scary Friday traffic along Riverside Drive, and the ride east along the river was super nice, starting near Sawyer Point and offering a somewhat elevated view of the river and Kentucky side most of the way through Columbia-Tusculum.
There were times when we’d look back, concerned by a line of four or five cars coming our way, but no one tossed any Biggie-sized drinks at us and nothing weird happened until we got to Delta Avenue — that’s when a dude wearing a bandana and driving a pickup truck called Jeff a jackass for hustling through a yellow light in front of him. Jeff responded with the standard “Fuck you!” and we kept on cranking up the hill.
We chose Zip’s because the iconic burger joint announced last week the addition of bacon to its menu, a development so important that Mayor Mark Mallory stopped by April 24 and proclaimed the day “Zip’s Café Day” in Cincinnati. Our server said they had never been able to prepare bacon to their standards because the grill is so small they can’t make it to order. I didn’t fully understand the details of the changing bacon-creating technologies that have allowed this to happen, but we fully supported the result.
We drank two beers and then Bengals first-round draft pick Tyler Eifert came into the restaurant with some executive dude from the team and Jeff got a photo with him, suggesting that they both do a “thumbs up” in the picture. But then Jeff switched into a right-arm flex and crazy face while I took the photo, leaving Eifert looking like he’s just smiling and giving Jeff’s guns a thumbs up.
We continued up Delta Avenue from Zip’s — stiff from the first ride and tired from the beers — and surprisingly made it all the way up to Ault Park without stopping. A bunch of high school kids were taking prom photos so we left the back way, zooming down a super steep hill all the way back to Columbia Parkway. The ride back into the city was highlighted by checking out the shanty-looking houses along Eastern Avenue near Terry’s Turf Club. 3CDC needs to redevelop those things.
Our city destination was Palomino, where we met another friend on a bike and proceeded to eat pizza and chat nonchalantly about current events.
A Cripple Cycles
ROUTE: Over-the-Rhine to Clifton Cultural Arts Center
LENGTH: 7.4 miles round-trip
GOAL: Originally to buy something crafty; amended to not end up on crutches/in hospital
CYCLIST: Hannah McCartney
Things in my life rarely go the way I imagine them happening in my head, so it wasn’t really a surprise when the night before my solo bike ride I collectively sprained my ankle tripping on some stairs and found my rear bike tire hopelessly deflated.
As I watched my ankle turn into a ballooning mood ring, I started wondering if I’d even be able to fit in a pair of gym shoes, let alone ride a bike. Determined to give it my best shot (I hate losing to dudes — especially co-worker German Lopez), I bought an ankle brace and, with some effort, wriggled myself into my Nikes.
Worried the guys at Reser wouldn’t have time on Saturday morning to fix my bum tire, I borrowed a really fancy Trek road bike from a friend, who warned me, “The tires are really thin. Be careful on the road; if you bike over a grate, the tire might actually fall through and send you flying.”
Oh, sweet. If that was possible, I knew I’d manage it somehow. I’d just tripped on my apartment steps, which I walk up and down every day. That terrified me enough to try Reser again (my thick mountain bike tires cater to my lack of physical grace, a comfort at the time); they’d fixed the back tire’s tube the day before, but nobody noticed a thick piece of wire lodged in the tire. Twenty minutes later, my fresh tire and I were pedaling down Vine Street; biking turned out to be less painful — and embarrassing — than gimping walking.
Journeying down Central Parkway toward Clifton from the Gateway Quarter was a little nerve-wracking; cars fly on that street. There are a few portions with paved bike lanes, but they quickly disappear. Not a road I’d want to bike at night. I’ll feel much more comfortable using Central as a channel to Clifton or Northside if the bike lanes are expanded a bit with some physical barriers, as is planned.
I turned right at Marshall Avenue and quickly realized I’d be rolling backward if I didn’t relinquish my pride and walk up the hill, at least until I cut over to Probasco Street. I felt feeble for caving, but I shed my guilt when I reached the top of Marshall, looked back and saw a super professional-looking Lycra-laden lady cyclist walking, too. If she couldn’t do it, I was probably doing all right.
That was shortly forgotten when I beat my all-time record of riding without handlebars — five seconds — zipping down Clifton Avenue. That’s a work in progress.
For the first time ever, I refrained from buying anything at Crafty Supermarket; instead, I saved my wadded-up bills for gelato, which I ate underneath a yarn-bombed blossoming cherry tree. Ankle status: upgraded from lemon-sized to mango, well on its way to eggplant.
The ride back to OTR from Clifton is immensely easier -— this time, I rode all the way up Clifton, turned onto McMillan and soared down Vine Street, which my brakes probably hated me for. Poor man’s rollercoaster.
When I got home, I limped up the same steps I’d tripped on and spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with a bag of frozen peas, which, really, was better than spending all morning with them, too.
A Trip to Mordor
ROUTE: Over-the-Rhine to The Banks
LENGTH: 2 miles round-trip
GOAL: Dinner and a movie, but eating too much food made a movie impossible
CYCLIST: German Lopez
My husband, Derek, and I are inherently disposed to do as little work as possible. Having to do stuff sucks. So when I told him last Monday that we should bike down to The Banks and Newport on the Levee on Saturday evening, his response was typical.
“Are we going to have to move a lot?” he asked.
Dreading exercise is easy and common. Not many people look forward to getting back on the treadmill or bike after a long time off. Starting that routine back up again is a lot more difficult when there’s no recent experience to calm our nerves with.
For me, it had been about three months since I last went anywhere on my bike. I’m not crazy enough to ride during winter. I don’t hate my face enough to have the cold wind peel it off.
For Derek, it had been the first time I saw him doing any real exercise in the six or so years I’ve known him. It’s no wonder, then, that he dreaded the experience all week.
But we did it. We first biked down from our apartment building, near the Lackman Bar, to The Banks. Mapquest shows it was only a one-mile ride, and it was mostly downhill. For most people, that wouldn’t be bad. For Derek, it was apparently like making the trip to Mordor.
To reward Derek for his exhausting effort, we stopped by Johnny Rockets for dinner. Some might criticize the choice, but that’s because they have no culture. Derek and I ordered two cheeseburgers, chili cheese fries, another order of fries, chicken tenders, a chocolate milkshake and a Sprite — enough to feed a family of four, but whatever, we’re in our early twenties and don’t have to worry about weight-related bullshit.
We ate, carrying on like it was just any other trip with any other method of transportation. According to Johnny Rockets’ nutrition calculator, our meal came out to about 5,170 calories. Whatever. We’re manly men (there’s nothing manlier than man on man), and we can handle it.
We were originally planning to see a movie after dinner, but we decided, as beautiful as Ryan Gosling is, he’s not worth the ridiculous ticket prices and costs for mandatory popcorn (going to the movies without getting popcorn is barbaric), especially after paying for our ridiculous meal. And we were in a food coma after eating more than a pound of food.
We got on our bikes and made the one-mile trip back to our apartment. Even though we had way too much in our stomachs, the journey wasn’t too bad, excluding the hill between Second and Fourth streets, which Derek called an asshole.
We eventually pulled up to our apartment building, finishing our trip. Except for the method of transportation, the experience was really no different than our other limited amount of outings.
“Was that so bad?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, but he said it with a smile that suggested otherwise.